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Asian liturgy forum calls for more incluturation for funerals rites

TAIPEI (SE): In the run up to the 15th Asian Liturgical Forum held in Taipei, Taiwan, from October 17 to 21, questions were being asked about various practices concerning the rite of Christian funerals.

One of the contentious issues was the custom in some places of scattering ashes of the dead.

While the forum did not directly respond to particular questions, it did say, “We believe that the inculturation of the rites of funerals should be based on the requirements of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy (article 81), which says, “the rite of funerals should express more clearly the paschal character of Christian death and should correspond more closely to the circumstances and traditions of various regions.”

The delegates from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand stressed the importance of the rites of passage in local cultures, saying that they should resonate with our Christian tradition of journey from baptism to eternal life, and have special reference to the sacrament of the sick (viaticum), as well as the final commendation rite and the liturgy of the funeral itself.

However, it also encouraged practices considered locally to be integral to particular cultures in funerals, especially where a Mass is being celebrated.

It also recommended that each local Church study carefully particular local practices in the interests of inculturation, making use of the assistance of sociologists, cultural anthropologists, experts in liturgical and local music, as well as theology and liturgy.

The forum stressed the role the community plays in the rites of passage celebrated in a Catholic or Christian context, especially when there is no priest present.

It highlighted the importance of ensuring that appropriate prayers are offered during the time of sickness, at the death itself, during the wake, the burial and beyond.

“We recommend that local episcopal commissions on liturgy compose appropriate prayers for such occasions,” the members of the forum said.

However, it pointed the great need for more catechesis on Church doctrine concerning death, afterlife and the resurrection of Christ. It stressed that local superstitions should be addressed, so that local Catholics understand the Christian perspective and are able to celebrate death in a Christian spirit.

It specifically pinpoints reincarnation as something that needs to be addressed more fully in catechesis.

Nevertheless, it encouraged local Churches to recognise the breadth of reference that the Church allows in the liturgy for Christian burial, “especially as regards the development of local funeral liturgies, on condition that the basic elements of Christian funeral contained in the typical edition are maintained.”

The forum was held under the auspices of Bishop Martin Su, the president of the Sacred Liturgical Commission of the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference.

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